We all deal with it in our personal and professional lives; clutter creates chaos. According to a study by the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO), cluttered workspaces can lead to a company's financial loss comparable to 10% of a manager's salary. Multiply that by 1,255 health care facilities, and it creates quite a buildup for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
"When I took over at this facility, we had a huge hut where you couldn't even fit," said Nigel Gamble. "We had 40-foot trailers and numerous floors in our building filled with just stuff."
“...we don’t have that clutter anymore, and it opens our budget to upgrade higher-priced equipment...”
— Nigel Gamble, NJ Dept. of Veteran Affairs
Gamble, the Assistant Chief of Logistics for the New Jersey Department of Veterans Affairs, had to realize there was a way out of their collective cache and a way to monetize it. No longer could their staff be forced to work around piles of dusty technology that block off rooms or no longer work.
"We were storing extra equipment in a garbage dumpster, not for trash but to keep the older tech out of the way," said Gamble. "My chief and I would go back and retrieve some of the devices, and I'm like, 'Hey, this is an asset value.'"
Our nation has over 9 million veterans enrolled in the VA health care program. Facility managers need to focus on the quality of life improvements for those servicemen and women. There's also a priority to purchase additional equipment like ventilators, which are critical pieces of equipment used to help COVID-19 patients breathe. Many similar machines are running non-stop and can gain usage mileage relatively quickly. Though, those same instruments retain much of their aftermarket value when it's time to move on.
Gamble, also a veteran, pushed his directors to partner with an electronics recycler and asset management provider, Sunnking. Over the course of a year, their partnership has not only reopened those off-limits areas but opened new possibilities, as well.
"We've been fortunate to work with numerous VA facilities," said Phil Bove, Director of ITAD for Sunnking. "Over the past five years, we've, together, recovered more than a million pounds of recyclable electronics."
Businesses looking to retrieve the most amount of money for their used devices is a practice that's been increasingly popular in the past decade. The New York-based electronics recycler, Sunnking, say they've received nearly double the weight of corporate tech since 2014. According to their latest reports, more than 12 million pounds of their total weight in 2019 came from corporate partners.
"Our primary focus is to help facilities take back their space from these retired devices and ease the burden of upgrade costs," said Bove.
The pandemic has, of course, driven even more devices into the world and the VA workforce. A newly released e-waste report confirms that 97% of companies had to buy additional laptops last year. Just think about what might happen to those devices when employees return to the office full-time - back to the hideaway closet.
The costly retired assets include computers, tablets, medical and testing upgrades, and physical therapy equipment, each of which costs around five and six figures. Those are all dollars that add up and are now starting to produce more tangible budget-friendly expenses and fund new future programs.
"Before COVID-19, one of the first investments we made were better park benches for our veterans," said Gamble. "As we advance, we won't have that clutter anymore, and it opens our budget to upgrade higher-priced equipment to expand areas like our radiology department."
Gamble says the one move at the New Jersey facility has boosted its sustainability efforts and reduced its environmental impact. It's also helped them comply with strict federal data destruction guidelines, ensuring sensitive data doesn't escape its walls.
"As a veteran and taxpayer, I think programs like this are a plus to know where your money is going."